Higgins Park chokerman’s races


Sweat, steam, sawdust and strong competition made for a successful logging weekend at Higgins Park.

For the fifth year running, Pigeon Valley Steam Museum hosted the weekend which featured the Chokerman’s Races for competing teams on Saturday and the Steam Logging Spectacular on Sunday, replicating how logging in Nelson’s forests was done in the old days.

The museums overhead skyline and steam winch were originally used to haul logs from the other side of the valley but when it fell into disuse and was considered unsafe, it came to reside at Higgins Park. A few years ago the logging industry, especially those of the younger generation, expressed an interest in seeing the old machinery revitalised. Thanks to a number of logging related businesses and people like Rex Kelly, a fourth generation logger and owner of Kelly logging, the Loggers Sports and Steam Logging Spectacular weekend welcome local and visiting teams, as well as the public, for a celebration of the logging industry.

There were around 12 teams of four competing on Saturday, formed from various logging crews throughout the Top of the South. The Chokerman’s Race featured four different logging related activities for each team member, each one being marked on both speed and quality of work. The first team member had to construct a wire grommet, the second activity required the competitor to assemble a chainsaw bar and chain and then cut three rings from a round log within 100 millimeters, the third person cut the equivalent of a lot of branches off a log, while the last person cut a log into 12 pieces before splitting them in half with an axe. As well as completing their activity, competitors also had to run the course and finish by choking up a log before the next person in the team could begin.

For the second year running, The Outsiders team took out the Chokerman’s Race with members Nigel Kelly, Sarah Heath, Travis Heath and Jesse Heath proud to receive the Winston Allnut Memorial Trophy. “This is my second year and my second time winning,” says Sarah. “It’s a family thing, I’m a Kelly, Grandad runs it, I like the atmosphere and I love the competition.”

Each member of the team also received a voucher for $600 worth of Stihl products from Stihl New Zealand while runners-up were rewarded with vouchers from Stihl Shop Richmond. Bowater Toyota also sponsored the prizes for fastest and neatest in the wire rope splicing competition.

Sunday on the other hand, was a day for the public to see the logging process from start to finish. After felling the trees with an axe and cross-cut saw, the logs were taken to the saw mill via the overhead skyline and steam winch, traction engine and bush locey.

“The museum has recently assembled a very good chainsaw collection and old logging related saws, and of course, the sawmill was the first thing that came here in the early 70s. The amazing thing about this place is that it’s a working museum,” says park manager Allan Palmer. “We try to have as much working as possible and this is one of our biggest days. People will see the way things used to be done, the forest industry is one of the biggest industries in Nelson and we’re keeping alive the history.”